Indian football’s ‘Vision 2047’: Old promises in new wrapping

In 2012, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) produced the Lakshya 2022 roadmap. A 125-slide PDF, the document was mainly authored by then AIFF technical director Robert Baan and was created with the intention of providing a blueprint for Indian football to follow in order to attain success and qualify for future World Cups. What followed afterwards were two FIFA U-17 World Cups being hosted in the country – one each for boys and girls, a renewal of the Indian Arrows program along with AIFF’s elite academy being built among the major changes that took place.

These moves were often criticised for not being cost-effective and not having a larger reach. As soon as the new-look AIFF headed by president Kalyan Chaubey and general secretary Shaji Prabhakaran took over, India gave up on hosting the AFC Asian Cup in 2027, disbanded the Indian Arrows project and launched a new roadmap that is to be followed until 2047.

But many of the promises made in both roadmaps remain largely similar and continue to be vague in how they are to be executed, and who will execute them.

Promise: National football philosophy

What Lakshya 2022 said: The roadmap proposed a national curriculum that would give way to an ‘Indian style of play’, a national talent identification plan, and a national youth development program.

What Vision 2047 says: The national football philosophy of India would be based on collecting data from scouting, creating a technical curriculum, focusing on coach and player development and hoping it would translate into a talent pool for the national team.

What’s new: The focus on collecting data and creating a scouting system – both of which the AIFF says it will be in charge of and will do so by 2026. The overall approach to finding a footballing philosophy though remains the same.

Promise: Youth development

What Lakshya 2022 said: “The new youth development plan will provide good competition for young boys and girls at all levels. The establishment of elite centres and academies must form the top of the pyramid from which the best talents can be signed by I-league clubs.”

What Vision 2047 says: Elite, state and district youth leagues to now be the focal point of scouting for a total of 100k registered youth players by 2026. Players at district and state levels are to be scouted by clubs and players at the elite level are to be scouted by AIFF.

What’s new: No more elite centres. No more Indian Arrows developmental team. An emphasis on a tiered youth league system that constantly churns out players and is routinely scouted. The system becomes different at the elite level but largely remains the same at the state and district levels.

Promise: Women’s football

What Lakshya 2022 said: The focus had to be on increasing competitions for women at the state and district levels, taking steps to improve corporate funding in the development of the women’s game and critically, mandating professional clubs in the country to build teams for a women’s league.

What Vision 2047 says: In exact words: ‘Greater adoption of women’s football by club structures across the pyramid’ and ‘creation of more opportunities for women through policy intervention’.

What’s new: While Lakshya 2022 promised to look for work opportunities for women after their playing career, Vision 2047 wants to provide a minimum salary for women – at what stages, starting when, and criterions demanded have not been made clear.

Promise: Domestic competitions

What Lakshya 2022 said: Creation of a ‘Super I-League’ to increase marketability, bring in international level players at international level stadiums and generate funds through further invitations to invest in the new league. The roadmap also said that the Federation Cup would become a key cog of domestic competition in India. Essentially, the Indian football season would be based on the I-League, the Super I-League and the Federation Cup.

What Vision 2047 says: A rebranded Santosh Trophy Cup and revival of the Hero Gold Cup. A five-tiered domestic league structure with the Indian Super League at the top of the pyramid. Launching the National Football Games. Renewed focus on the Hero Super Cup.

What’s new: Most of the changes hinge upon the strengthening of state and district football. The solution to these changes is to strengthen tiered leagues at the district and state levels, through a strong State Association system, according to the Vision 2047 roadmap. But in a country where top clubs are bleeding money and are barely able to survive, the finances involved in these state and district-level football teams to thrive would require solutions which are not a part of both roadmaps.

Promise: Infrastructure

What Lakshya 2022 said: The then roadmap said that the AIFF was convinced it required a National Football Training Centre and that this place would be ready by 2013 and would house administrative, as well as national teams and staff members. The roadmap also said that there must be one artificial field in each state.

What Vision 2047 says: A fully functional National Centre of Excellence for men’s football to be completed by 2026 and the same to be built for women’s football. It calls for an infrastructure census by 2025 as well as the makings of a plan for a football mega park to be produced by 2026 and then the park itself to be completed by 2047. The roadmap also calls for at least 50 standard football pitches per district.

What’s new: Plans for a smart stadium and two FIFA standard stadiums to be furnished by 2026.

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